Two Poems by Sheila Black

Sheila Black

Sheila Black

Sheila Black is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Iron, Ardent (Educe Press, 2017). She is a co-editor of Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Birmingham Review, The New York Times and other places. She currently divides her time between San Antonio, TX, and Washington, D.C., where she works at AWP.

For the Treachery of Night

I can cope with the heat for I have grown cold inside—
I like people best in chance meetings,
at train stations or the arrival lounges of airports.
I like the bars with their pre-fab seats and their
brittle plastic cups, the tenderness
of things passing, disposable. Memory has grit enough,
the squares of a city I reconstruct in dreams. I
confuse locations but when I wake up in the lucent hour—
not dawn, never dawn, I never feel lost. I see
where I have been more clearly than the first
time, feel the pavement under our feet,
the port with its cloudy gloomy eye, and the chill
of the bed when we slid under the sheets. You would
not believe how this world melts, or how a painting
in a museum reminds me more of apples than
apples themselves. You would not believe how
I let you go, press your imagined sadness to my lips.
What did we know of the treachery of night or
that like the horizon it would trick us into thinking
it was further than we would ever go.




For the Malheur Refuge

I told the therapist it was over, OVER, capitalizing
the letters with my voice, but even when I said it, and you
barely flinched, I knew the lie, knew the Sargasso sea
at our feet of the so many years we met in restaurants
after work and drank sangria too quickly, the years,
and the time you threw beer bottles—fifteen
of them—out the airshaft of my apartment at a party
where everyone imbibed too much of everything and
the next day you went with me to see the super and
you made your apology sound so feasible, so reasonable,
he forgot how much glass we’d had to sweep up
or the fact—as he told us—that someone could have
died. Our bodies never perfect together—I said
that in the therapist’s office, too, but sugar comes
in so many slowly melting forms, and the night
I almost died, giving birth, you let me bite into your
shoulder so hard you can still see the shape of my
teeth. Maybe that saved me, but you still annoy me,
even the way you explain how to wash a dish or
sweep the dust from a corner. Or the way you buy
our children extravagant gifts after telling me how
very broke and in debt we are—bicycles for everyone,
a bottle of champagne in the ridiculous restaurant
with bad strawberry shortcake. Waste like mud, silence
like mulch. But who else knows the photograph of
you with your now-dead brother on the edge of high
desert—two kids in front of a flimsy ranch house with
miles of empty scrub around, and the great birds—
egrets, cranes—so many they curlicue the sky.